I'm going to start straight off and state that I really don't think there is anything eco about holidaying. But I didn't half need a break!
I once read that you should build a life from which you don't need a holiday - sage advice - but not necessarily something that the majority can do. Whilst I probably feel less inclined than most to depart from normal life (as normal life for me is pretty enjoyable!) it is nice, once in a while, to leave the distractions behind and find a new corner to explore.
Flying is ruled out immediately - not just on account of the environmental impact, but also because there are too many of us to make it feasible! And although a foreign jaunt is appealing, we are lacking in passports and the means to make it happen comfortably. The weather has been so fine this year though, that actually staying on home turf is not a bad option!
The UK has plenty of unchartered territory for us, and with vaguely predictable weather, making an active choice to stay in the country was perfectly viable. The first choice, Mull, however was ruled out last minute due to rain and low temperatures, and instead we picked Norfolk, somewhere we had never ventured.
So what an eye opener today has been!
If I have been quiet of late, that's because I have done something almost unheard of. I've had a holiday!
I have been lucky enough to be involved in a longstanding project to improve the alleyways that lie between the back-to-back terraces in my town. I can't even begin to describe just how dreadful some of these are - full of rubbish and flytipped waste, dog and cat faeces and the scene of various criminal acts. But slowly, slowly we have been turning things around. I can't take any credit for this - it is down to a group of people, people I now include amongst my friends, that we've collectively nicknamed the 'Alleypals!'
There are aspects of what I do that really aren't pretty, certainly not for the faint hearted! And some that require steely determination and inordinate amounts of optimism. This is one of those projects that I feel in my bones will work. World meet Gresham, Gresham meet world...
Bear with me...
I was lucky enough to get wind of a community litter pick lately, organised by two lovely young people who, keen to begin growing in their area, wanted to start by improving an area of wasteland just next to their local park.
If there's one thing that's a great way to kick off a community project, then it's picking up litter. It's an easy thing to do, anyone can take part, and there's an immediate visual improvement. It's also the perfect means to begin conversations - not so taxing that it's difficult to concentrate and the people contributing generally have at least a few common interests, so no awkward pauses.
A kind friend shared this video recently (The Land) and even after a few days, I can't quite lay it to rest.
The awe inspiring lady is living something close to the life I'd like and am working towards, but there are two things she mentions that really struck a chord. The first is her mentioning how much her and her mum laugh. Laugh! Sad to say that I'm really not sure how many people laugh nowadays. Not comedy show laughter, but the deep belly laughter of good times with friends and family. Her simple life provides her with the head space to do this and, looking at her face, you can see the peace and contentment in her heart. I haven't seen that elsewhere for a long time.
The second sentiment is that of the value of community. As she points out, those that choose a life such as hers are often short of cash so rely on others for their skills and time. I see so many people around me struggling and wonder how different it might be if they felt they could call on neighbours. And more importantly, what more I can do to share what I have freely. Sharing naturally builds community, and strong communities build resilience to change, banish loneliness and restore laughter. We need less because more is given. We are so often too proud to ask and too suspicious to give.
And against that backdrop of pondering, I saw this UC Middlesbrough video. The street is maybe half a mile from where I live and I know it well. Behind the lady's house is an alley, and part of the alley has been systematically transformed into a thriving community garden. There are plants and ornaments and paintings, children play safely, people meet to share a beer and a cheeky cigarette. This weekend, we're holding a party there with films, a campfire and the unveiling of the most beautiful mural, cleverly painted by Jo from a neighbouring street with poetry from another valued member of the community, Bob. This is just yards away from where this lady feels so isolated and so worried about her future.
And there it is: if she knew, she would find so much love and so much caring so close. She would find her community. It wouldn't necessarily change anything, but maybe it could make her life a little more resilient, a little more laughter filled, a little more peaceful. I do hope we can find her in time to tell her.
Time for a change eh?
Treading Lightly is simple living, within your means and the means of the planet, and making a minimal impact on the Earth. Find out more here about Catherine, of Barefoot Solutions, does this from day to day.